This week’s list comes delayed as a result of a downpour. No, we didn’t have any flash floods…well, not in real life anyway. The Technical Tuesday columns are typically typed timely like, on Tuesday evening. However, this week’s was obstructed by videogaming, specifically, in the form of Downpour. That is, the new Silent Hill videogame. Typically I take turns playing with my friend, switching the control whenever someone dies, but this gaming sessions had remarkably short innings as our protagonist met his untimely demise over, and over, and over…. Anyway, this week’s column features a bit of new discoveries, a bit of old favorites, and a bit of those records you buy, don’t listen to for a long time, and then realize are really awesome, but not until months later. Hence, I used the old wedding superstition, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue…” but added a little beat of deathening up. That being said, here are the competitors:
Carnophage – Deformed Future / Genetic Nightmare Turkey’s Carnophage plays technical death metal of the brutal variety. Deformed Future / Genetic NIghtmare is thick, chunky, crunchy, and heavy – the perfect thing for the morning commute to the office. This death metal sounds like it belongs in the crypts, or perhaps even the sub basement or the sewers beneath. Appropriately septic and sick, Deformed Future/Genetic Nightmare makes me thoroughly disappointed in myself for not listening to Carnophage sooner. Like Severed Savior or Inveracity, Carnophage can get technical, but never forget that this is DEATH metal. This is that “something new” from the title.
Neuraxis – Asylon I purchased Neuraxis’ Asylon months ago, despite the original release date of February 15 2011, and didn’t listen to it until today. Something to do with purchasing it digitally and not having a physical copy to say to me “HEY LISTEN.” However, the physical versus digital music is a dispute for another day (meaning not Tuesday). I have always liked Neuraxis, but they never impressed me enough to write home about them…which changed with this album. These Canadians have always played intelligent death metal of high musicianship, but for some reason their material never clicked with me until Aylon. Perhaps Neuraxis is really coming into their own stylistically… or perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention enough in the past. This is not that “something old” part, because Asylon was a pleasant surprise for me.
Neuraxis – The Thin Line Between I decided I needed to revisit past Neuraxis material to see if I had just missed something. However, The Thin Line Between lacks something that I think Asylon has. The only way I can describe it is something relevant to a very individualistic identity in the scene – for example, you always know a Gojira track when you hear it, right? Anyway, Neuraxis is from Canada, which brings us plenty of progressive technical and progressive death metal, so I can imagine these tech-heads will continue an upwards ascent.
Centaurus-A – Side Effects Explained Perhaps as a result of the vowel and consonant patterns in the names, I am often reminded of Centaurus-A when I think of Neuraxis. Perhaps because I view them both as intelligent, spacey, brain oriented technical death metal as well. Side Effects Explained brings some tech death on full tilt, without ever getting weedly-deedly, but also drops in some Meshuggah-isms. Unlike Neuraxis, who I think sound firmly routed in the Canadian scene (which I mean as a huge compliment), Centaurus-A has a rather varied palette of influences. The Fredrik Thordendal-esque leads seem to pull the band towards Sweden, but the death riffs remind me of the Florida scene, but the technical squeals and thrash stops remind me of Germany. To be clear the band is German, but they maintain a very unique sound, incorporating some crazy tech moments, some dissonant Meshuggah-isms, some windmilling and headbanging moments, and some slower grooves, mixing up to create a very dynamic and memorable album. Neuraxis is one of the two “things in two.”
Psycroptic – The Inherited Repression TDM did a staff review of Pyscroptic’s The Inherited Repression for the February 10th release of the album. At the time, the album’s focus on the mid-range grinded my nerves, but I have become quite accustomed to it now, and really enjoy the album. I still think it could benefit from some more highs and lows, but I think I missed out on the complexity and intricacy of the album before. Spinning and razor sharp, The Inherited Repression is not to be missed, and will definitely be making an appearance on my year end list. I suppose this could qualify as “something told.”
Man Must Die – No Tolerance for Imperfection I really enjoy when metal bands write lyrics about things other than being angry or killings, such as spiritualism, philosophy, psychology, economics, etc… but sometimes it is time for seriously angry DEATH METAL, and “Kill it, Skin it, Wear it” brings this in abundance. If you are a fan of technical music and who enjoys activities that call for fast, forceful, and surging music, you owe it to yourself to get this song. In particular, see from 3:15 onward, when vocalist Joe McGlynn screams “Where do we draw the line!” followed by pounding snares and jackhammer riffs. Man Must Die is full force, angry technical death metal at its best, with enough riffs to bulldoze a building, and drum ratta-tat-tats and double bass rolls to flatten the rubble paper thin…while the vocalist belts out anthems of destruction to motivate the work force. YES. Get this now.
Man Must Die – The Human Condition I was a huge fan of Man Must Die’s first album, …So Start Killing, but this album didn’t really catch my attention as much. I think it was something with the production, or maybe that I missed the release and came back to it much later. It really is a solid album, but for some reason I don’t reach for The Human Condition as much as the more technical No Tolerance for Imperfection, or the somewhat less technical and more melodic debut full length. I think I may be in the minority on that though. Still, standout track “1000 Promises of Pain” is not to be missed. Man Must Die is the second in the pair of “somethings in two.”
Sickening Horror – The Dead and Experiment Sickening Horror’s The Dead Experiment was a recommendation (hence being the “something told”) that has really won me over. Its dead and dripping, its cosmic and spacey, its technical and mathematic, and its experimental and bizarre. I am a major sucker for anything that can be classified in that bizarre/experimental death metal category, and Sickening Horror hits it spot on…but at the same time manages never to be alienating. This is an album that could appeal to fans of Gigan and Baring Teeth, as much as fans of Cannibal Corpse and Aborted. Not to be missed.
Anata – Under a Stone with No Inscription
I bought Anata’s Under a Stone with No Inscription completely blindly after reading a glowing reviews from a metal site I used as a method of finding new bands, and I really was not ready for it. This is the absolute defining album for those death metal bands that veer close to the territory of mathcore, that have left the crypts behind. Anata’s old material is good, scratch that, really good (especially tracks like “Under Azure Skies”) but newer tracks such as “Entropy Within” have more math than a calculus convention. I like Psycroptic, but whenever I hear them, I think of Under a Stone, which is the benchmark in this cut of technical death metal. See tracks like closer “Any Kind of Magic or Miracle,” and be impressed. This definitely deserves a perfect score on the album review scale, and a classic review in the future.
Death – The Sound of Perseverance Speaking of classics, here is that something old. Death is the original, the innovator…whether or not Chuck Schuldiner invented death metal is irrelevant, the band’s catalog features absolutely defining moments for the genre. 1987’s Scream Bloody Gore changed the world of music forever, bringing us down to the tombs that many musicians have never left, while 1993’s Individual Thought Patterns defined what would become progressive death metal.
The band’s final full length, 1998’s The Sound of Perseverance, was too technical and progressive for my unrefined ears. I remember being so excited to hear the album, running out to the record store, buying it, and…not understanding. I am embarrassed to admit this, but I literally said to myself “Wait, this doesn’t sound anything like Cannibal Corpse…” However, now I am all the more thankful for it. Sound (along with other later era Death releases) defines the neo-classical death metal sub-sub genre, and never ceases to impress me. For example, see instrumental “Voice of the Soul,” which pairs classical guitarwork with shrieking thrash solos and technical flourishes that cut like knives into the psyche. In addition, lyrical themes of psychology, spiritualism, and even emotions (?!) remain relevant, poignant, and sometimes simply more interesting than zombies eating flesh (again). Reviewers will occasionally say “everything is perfect” on an album, but for Sound of Perseverance that saying actually applies. Memorable but mathematic, technical but melodic, progressive yet classical, Sound of Perseverance will forever be a permanent fixture in the pantheon of death metal. Rest in peace, Chuck.
My verdict took a sudden change at the end of the day. I listened to Neuraxis in the morning, and was utterly convinced Asylon would edge out all competition with a defining album in the career of a talent band that I didn’t listen to very often … but then “Kill it, Skin it, Wear it” reminded me that a little fierceness can be the doctor’s orders, and I was convinced Man Must Die had upset Neuraxis. And then Anata’s calculator reminded me how much I love sharp precision… However, a sudden inclusion of Sound of Perseverance in the evening reminded me of why I am always looking back to yesteryear for the best albums of technical death metal. DEATH is the champion. Not just today, but in general.